Monday, May 26, 2008

Pillars Expansion on its way

The Pillars of the Earth is undoubtedly my favourite board game this year. The expansion, which extends the game to a maximum of 6 players has been out in Germany for a while.

Now the English version has hit the ground, at least in the US, and courtesy of the interweb my copy shall be making its way over the Pacific to me in the next couple of weeks.

Am I excited? You bloody bet I am!

Big Brother 08 - Week 4 Recap

Week 4 was a time for song and dance. Well, dance mostly. And more petulance from Malibu.

Looking at my notes I find that there are two things that stick out. Both feature Malibu, but are at opposite ends of the spectrum. While for the daily show for Day 21 I've simply noted "Malibu is SO STUPID!!!", my quote of the week also comes from the amusing blonde. On Day 27, having endured a week of disco dance practice with Travis, Malibu spoke about Travis to BB in the Diary Room: "He's like one of those dolls where you pull the string in the back and he just says one of his stupid lines." So true.

Let's reflect on the rest of the notes I made...

  • Dixie and Bianca celebrated Rebecca's departure.
  • In her farewell message Rebecca passed her Head of Household armband to Alice, gave a serve to Dixie and Bianca for being bitchy (PKB1 Alert!), then threw the third Housemate Hand Grenade at Dixie, giving her the job of the Big Brother Mobile Washing Service.
  • On Day 22, BB woke up the HMs to tell them about their So You Think You Can Dance task for the week. The HMs were divided into six partnerships.
  • The wannabe "couple" in the house, Nathan & Renee, were partnered for the waltz; Ben & Bianca were given the tango (setting the scene for Bianca to feel a little frisky); Malibu & Travis were given disco; Terri & David had to learn the German slap dance; Alice & Dixie got to do hip hop; and Rory & Nobbi became a boy band.
  • Much of the dance focus was on Nathan & Renee as they continued to flirt throughout the week. The other HMs thought they made a cute couple. I agree.
  • Wednesday night's show saw a flashback to the early hours of Day 18 when Carson Kressley re-crashed the house to make over the rest of the HMs: Bianca, Dixie, Travis (to whom Carson gave the advice "If you meet girls in church, they're not going to put out"), Nobbi, Rebecca, Nathan, Alice, and David.
  • Carson decided that Renee was the most improved of the HMs he made over so he gave her and Dixie a trip to New York. Dubbo Girls in the City?
  • Back to dance practice, and we found that Travis and rhythm do not go together.
  • In a challenge to get some of her belongings back, Big Brother gave Malibu rose-coloured glasses that she had to wear at all times with a matching attitude.
  • Malibu tried to be positive but she wasn't aided by Rory's antagonism. When BB later gave the HMs the choice of what to return to Malibu, Rory led the charge to give her nothing. In the end, Alice, as HoH, decided to give Malibu some makeup for having a "red hot go".
  • Malibu became even more depressed, especially with Travis' "dancing".
  • Bianca flirted with the boys. She needs some lovin'.
  • Nathan assisted Dixie with the laundry, and as a result Dixie was punished by having to wash the giant bedsheets, while Nathan had to cheer her on.
  • In Scout Night at FNL #4, Alice and Terri made it to the final two. They had to play a Yes/No guessing game to guess the item BB had stolen from the house. The correct answer was "hub-cap", but Alice and Terri were woeful, and despite clues from BB were unable to guess it correctly. In the end Alice won by default after Terri guessed "hoop".
  • Alice therefore became HoH for the second week running. She chose to take Nobbi to the strategy room to give him some time in the house.
  • In the final daily show for the week, Dixie advised Big Brother that she was getting back pain from doing all the washing because her boobs weigh 4.3 kilos each.
  • Big Brother was unsympathetic, and Dixie related this to the other HMS. Unfortunately, she misquoted him a little, and after finding this out, Bianca went a little psycho.
  • The HMs finally performed their dance routines for two of the So You Think You Can Dance judges.
  • After earlier worrying that she had no groove, Dixie did really well in her hip hop routine with Alice.
  • In fact all the HMs did a great job. Malibu was no doubt miffed after Travis got all the praise from the judges after their disco number.
  • After a week without nice food, the HMs were told they passed.

    Eviction Show #3 started with the revelation that it was a double eviction. I was therefore expecting more than 3 HMs to be up for eviction, but it wasn't to be. 3 were put up, and only 1 survived.

    Before the voting commenced Kyle had a few words to say to Nathan. Apparently he was speaking for many other people when he called Nathan a dog for stringing Renee along. Sometimes I like it when Kyle speaks his mind, but that was inappropriate and uncalled for. Kyle, you are a dog. And a mangy, filthy, flee-ridden one at that.

    With Terri in curlers, Dixie in her nurse uniform, and Travis with a drawn on lipstick smile (he apparently edged out Malibu as the dumbest housemate and his award was to be made up by her) the HMs didn't appear to be taking things too seriously. Things changed somewhat when they were advised it was a double eviction.

    The bottom 3 housmates this week were David, Nathan and Alice. Alice chose to save herself, and she was replace by perennial nominee Rory.

    Voting went like this:

    Travis1 2
    Ben1 2
    Terri2 1
    Bianca1 2
    Nobbi2 1
    Renee 21
    Alice4 2
    Nathan 12
    Rory2 1

    Evictee number one for the night was Nathan who was hounded mercilessly on stage by both Kyle and Jackie. It brought back the days of Gretel's post-eviction interviews with her least favourite male housemates - particularly Jamie last year.

    Now I like going the snark. I do say some potentially nasty things about HMs when I blog, but I don't do it particularly nastily, and not on stage in front of the whole country. Kyle went back to his weasily ways, and I thought Nathan acquitted himself very well, easily coming across as the better man.

    David was then evicted, reducing the number of male HMs to 4 (with 6 women). The rumour mill (aka Behind Big Brother) is pointing to intruders entering the house in the not too distant future.

    There's also a hypnotism special later this week (filmed earlier last week) where HMs get to act like prats. I have my own views on hypnotism, in that it's not the voodoo it's portrayed to be, so I'm not looking forward to the show. You have to be a willing participant to be hypnotised in the first place, and in a house full of extroverts, there is plenty of willingness to act like a complete tool. Heck, they don't need some tacky TV personality to tell them they're getting sleepy in order to look like fools. Locking them in a house for weeks on end is more than sufficient.

    1- Pot. Kettle. Black.
  • Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    Big Brother 08 - Week 3 Recap

    It's the end of Week 3 and Knobbi is still in the kombi. I'm actually quite impressed that BB has kept it up so long. Usually these things last for a day or two, but Knobbi's punishment continues unabated. The guy has quit his whining for the most part so, for now, he becomes "Nobbi" again.

    And what juicy highlights came to our attention up the vacuum thingy this week?

  • Saxon's farewell message was played and he delivered the 2nd Housemate Hand Grenade. He chose Malibu to lose all of her possessions indefinitely.
  • Malibu: "What does indefinitely mean?"
  • Malibu did not take it well. At all. She vented her anger by whacking the TV monitor with her shoe and telling everyone she wanted to leave the house so she could bash Saxon. Gold.
  • Rory, David, Alice and Renee were chosen to travel on Big Brother Airlines and went into the "plane" for a few hours before arriving, to their delight, in "Bali" (aka that yard with the trees and pool on the other side of the wall).

    I'll just say here, kudos to BB for this one. Taking HMs already locked in a house and then locking them in a tiny plane for hours was genius. Perfect for the type of conversations we like to watch on Big Mouth. Now back to Malibu...

  • ...who threatened to go on a hunger strike.
  • BB revealed the weekly task - standing in the back yard catching cricket balls in the Big Brother Test Match. This one was a nice idea, but unfortunately the housemates' enthusiasm for this task was lower than Lowy McLow set a world record in the limbo.
  • Malibu went through with her threat and did go on a hunger strike.
  • Not wanting to talk to BB, Malibu took Dixie in to the Diary Room to act as a go-between. This resulted in one of the funniest scenes ever to come out of the Big Brother house. Here's an exerpt:

    Malibu and Dixie are in the Diary Room chair.
    Malibu: Tell him I don't feel comfortable wearing other people's clothes, so could I have some pillow cases with holes and a head hole cut in it.
    BB: Dixie, could you please tell Brigitte that Big Brother will get back to her.
    Dixie: Brigitte, Big Brother said that he'll get back to you.
    Malibu: Hmph!
    Dixie: Brigitte said "hmph!"
    BB: Thank you Dixie. And Dixie, could you tell Brigitte Big Brother said "Thank you Brigitte."
    Dixie: Big Brother said "Up yours."

    Dixie rocks!

  • BB gave Brigitte a pink pillow case which she made into a dress.
  • Corey showed his maturity by throwing flour on the sleeping Malibu. He must fancy her.
  • Malibu retaliated by squirting sauce in Corey's bed.
  • Malibu stated that 40% of Americans are called Erik.
  • Carson Kressley crashed the BB house and dressed Terri, Malibu, Ben, Corey, Renee and Rory. I can't wait for him to come back next week and dress the gayest "not gay" person in history, Travis.
  • Dixie decided to get fit.
  • Malibu and Dixie visited the Diary Room again:

    Malibu and Dixie are leaving the Diary Room.
    Malibu: I'm going to Big Brother's house and stealing his stuff.
    Dixie: You are in his house.
    Malibu: Well then I'm stealing his stuff.
    Malibu grabs the large pot plant sitting outside the Diary Room and drags it with her.

  • David finally decided it was time to play the "I escaped from the Exclusive Brethren" card.
  • Renee admitted fancying Nathan and it became a house talking point.
  • Rebecca turned 23.
  • Corey finally left the house!!!!!!!
  • Corey finally left the house!!!!!!! (I just had to say that again!)
  • Corey and Nobbi won $60,000 for the winner's prize money by matching answers in BB's "Which HM is the most..." quiz.
  • In FNL #3, Big Brother rigged the final spelling Bee round so that Rebecca would win. She became HoH.
  • Rebecca chose to take Malibu to the strategy room. Bwahahahahahaha! Who would have thought "Malibu" and "strategy room" would ever go together?
  • Ben on Malibu: "I may have an annoying personality, but at least I have one."
  • Finally we saw some snogging action when Alice pashed Ben druing a truth or dare session in the spa.
  • Travis does nothing to dispel gay rumours when he recoils at the dare of kissing Dixie.

    And lastly, before we get to the Eviction Show, it's time for the Big Brother word of the week. BB often introduces words that aren't part of normal every day vocab, but become commonly used inside the confines of the Big Brother compound.

    And that word is "cut". As in, "I'm not cut" (I'm not angry) or "I didn't want to cut her up" (I didn't want to make her angry). There's been a fair amount of cutness between the women in the house, that's for sure.

    The producers dragged Travis' mum on stage to defend him during Eviction Show #2. She wasn't particularly convincing.

    The bottom 3 HMs were Ben, Rory and Travis. Returning the favour from last week, Rebecca saved Travis only to be nominated herself as the 4th least popular housemate.

    Here's how the voting went down:

    Brigitte2 1
    Alice 21
    Travis1 2
    Ben 21

    Yeah, you read that right. Rebecca the stupid bimbo voted for herself. It wouldn't have made a difference even if she hadn't but good riddance I say.

    Interestingly, the whole "Revolve" thing was given the heave ho after the backlash against it last week. Instead, Kyle and Jackie O just read out the name of one of the non-evicted housemates and then announced the evictee.

    And just to prove exactly how live the Eviction Show really is, Rebecca appeared on stage immediately upon the doors of the house shutting behind her. Whatever will they think of next to piss us off?
  • Monday, May 19, 2008

    Big Brother 08 - Week 2 Recap

    What with weddings and a conference we've been behind Big Brother-wise here up the vacuum thingy, but having now caught up, it's time to dissect week 2.

  • Corey the brat surfaced when he was told he must share a locker with Terri.
  • Terri had to look after Corey but he hid and the other housemates told her he escaped.
  • Big Brother made a mess in the garden.
  • Dixie snored.
  • Bianca's dislike for Corey began to show. Her fellow HMs told her to chill.
  • Asked why she was spending so much time putting on make-up, Malibu replied it was because she was on TV.
  • Corey chose chocolate and soft drink over a hair straightener.
  • Bianca confronted Corey over her dislike for him, and for some unfathomable reason tried to enter into a rational debate with the thickhead.
  • Big Brother made more mess in the garden.
  • Malibu declared she thought Barney was hideous because he wouldn't stop smiling.
  • Saxon revealed his anti-culinary skills when he demonstrated he didn't know how to make porridge. That's no how ye make porridge.
  • Big Brother gave Corey the opportunity to kick out two "web mates". He refused.
  • Big Brother then gave the eviction power to Corey's minder, Terri.
  • The HMs were told Terri would kick two web mates out at sunrise. Knobbi (still in the kombi) found another reason to hate Terri.
  • Pretending to be a ninja, Rory was put in his place by Big Brother who informed Rory he wasn't qualified. I like the new, funny Big Brother.
  • At dawn on Day 10, Terri chose to evict Michael and Barney. Sheesh! I had Barney in the sweep you dozy cow!
  • Terri was made a fully fledged housemate again.
  • Rebecca told BB she wanted to leave, and had a cry.
  • Dixie also had a cry after she was accused of stealing food.
  • Dixie stated she was sick of living with "a bunch of wankers" and wanted to go home.
  • Corey surprises everone by actually being entertaining with a pretty decent Mr Bean impression.
  • Big Brother made yet more mess in the garden, complemented with raining confetti.
  • Rebecca and Dixie agree to be soldiers and not go home.
  • Nathan was voted as Mr Big Brother 2008.
  • During FNL #2, BB revealed the prize for winning was to become Head of House (an idea "borrowed" from BB USA) with extra voting powers on eviction night.
  • After being dragged around a course by Rory during FNL, asked by BB if she was OK, an exhausted Terri answered "I haven't decided yet."
  • Nathan was victorious and became HoH.
  • Ineligible to vote in the upcoming evicition, Nathan's reward of entry to the Strategy Room (and what a fizzer that has been) and extra voting powers were promptly taken from him and handed to FNL runner-up Travis.
  • Knobbi became mother for a day to celebrate Mother's Day.
  • The HMs were informed they passed the Cleaning Task and won food.
  • Saxon got irritated no one was taking his alien conspiracy theories seriously. Awwww.
  • Bianca took on Corey in another verbal stoush and soundly trounced his puny white arse. Corey was, of course, to stupid to realise this.

    Phew. Deep breath.

    And so to Eviction Show #1, where Big Brother revealed that the bottom 3 housemates, as voted by the public, were David, Rebecca and Saxon.

    Rebecca was saved by her pal Travis, and the housemate with the 4th least amount of votes, Rory, slotted into her place. What that meant was the tradition of a woman being evicted first would be broken with three blokes up for the chop. And I couldn't be more pleased.

    The HMs then voted on who to evict. The voting went like this:

    Alice2 1
    Nobbi 21
    Brigitte2 1
    Rebecca2 1
    Travis 42
    Saxon 21
    David2 1

    So UFO Boy was sent to the stars. His mode of departure was "The Revolve" - a giant turn table divided into three sections - one for each nominated housemate.

    The idea was that the device would turn, and the doors would open revealing the saved housmates. Unfortunately, any suspense was totally lost when Big Brother announced "David" and Rory walked back in, thereby telling us immediately which housemate was evicted.

    "The Revolve" was a momumental flop. I can see how it sounded like a good idea in a brain storming session during pre-production, but the execution was comically anticlimactic.

    Both I and The Giggling One are enjoying this season more than last year. That view is not least due to the new found sense of humour being injected into the show. I can't see why so many people are criticizing it. It is sooo much better than last year. I just hope it continues to grow.
  • Wednesday, May 7, 2008

    Big Brother 08 - Week 1 Recap

    One week down and so many highlights. Hmmm, it's hard to infuse that sentence with the oodles of sarcasm it was meant with.

    Let's see:

  • Malibu and Rebecca discussed implants. Who woulda thought?
  • Terri was voted out on the morning of Day 2 to no one's surprise after the boys ganged up on her.
  • Terri had her revenge and kicked Nobbi out to the kombi van.
  • Nobbi didn't take it well.
  • Dixie missed her mum and had a cry. On Day 2!!!!
  • The boys (minus Travis) formed the Spa Mafia.
  • Saxon revealed he's really an arsehole.
  • The Spa Mafia activated Operation Sparkles and kidnapped Malibu's toy unicorn that she can't sleep without.
  • Dixie cried again.
  • In Friday Night Live, Rima broke her leg and was taken to hospital; Saxon and Alice were disqualified when their space ship prop broke through no fault of their own; Nobbi won the night and was awarded $20, Zimbabwean Dollars.
  • David turned 33 and had a party.
  • A hidden kitchen was revealed, and the housemates gained access after answering 9 out of 12 questions about thmselves and the house correctly (they needed 7).
  • Bianca got upset when other HMs stole her bread.
  • Sparkles was found! Dixie was framed. The Spa Mafia remained successfully unsuspected. Maybe now the Sparkles saga is over we'll get to see some more stimulating action from the house.

    Nobbi is still banished from the house proper, and is still seething over Terri's housemate hand grenade. Nobbi's attitude has in fact, led me to start referring to him as Knobbi. He's missed a golden opportunity to ingratiate himself with viewers. Having his own story line in the house so early is a potential goldmine, allowing him to make use of the precious air time.

    Unfortunately Knobbi has far from shined, and he is certainly more unpopular than he could or should be (or at least I thought so until I saw Big Mouth - more on that next week). Compare his situation with Bianca for example. I had a hard time trying to remember her name until the garlic bread incident. And can I just say, had people been stealing my bread I'd have been annoyed too.

    So now we get to Sunday night's (Day 8) offering: The Gatecrashers.

    Has Big Brother ever been so overhyped and underdelivered? If not, this one gets very, very close.

    Firstly we saw Jackie O still has trouble dressing, though her dress led to speculation from some sources that she might be pregnant. Kyle's tic was less noticeable, and I must say I am enjoying his irreverence.

    Last week's Launch Show microphones had obviously been put through the wash a couple of times and were now significantly smaller.

    Rima sent the HMs her regards from hospital, almost dwarfed by the Coke can she held.

    We were also treated to highlights from the week which included footage like food crashing off the end of the conveyor belt. Why wasn't this stuff in the Daily Show? The highlights were much more exciting than stupid Princess Sparkles.

    On to the new housemates, or "Web Mates" as they were dubbed. These were the three most voted for people on the internet.

    First up was Barney, a part time life guard. The girls were rather impressed when he entered the house.

    The reactions of the girls were significantly more muted for the entrances of Nathan and Michael. Interestingly, despite being the most popular of the "Web Mates" in the voting stakes, Michael was the only one not interviewed on stage. It seems the law has been laid down to the producers about running overtime and his on stage interview was cut to save time.

    Then came the highlight, or more accurately the lowlight, of the night. After all the hype, party boy Corey Worthington was brought on to the stage and then sent into the house as a house guest. Expecting a smart arse, arrogant, self-absorbed bad boy, what we got instead was a bland, inarticulate 17 year old, who by all rights should have faded into obscurity 10 minutes after the house trashing fiasco died down.

    This guy would never have made it past the first stage of Big Brother auditions. He must have one hell of a PR machine.

    So, rather inevitably, Corey's entrance to the house (bizarrely sans trademark sunglasses) was more of a fizzer than when Fizzy McFizz drank a fizzy drink and found out it was flat.

    The highlight of the evening was easily the return of Nanna Terri. Ostensibly sent back in as a house guest to chaperone bad boy Corey, Terri's main role, however, is to stir things up after Channel 10 spent all that time promoting her. And stir things up she did. Knobbi was far from delighted to see her and made such a show of it that the other HMs felt compelled to give him hugs. Sheesh. Grow up you tosser.

    At the conclusion of the show, the new voting system was unveiled. Instead of HMs nominating, and the public voting to evict, it's now the other way around. The public vote for their favourite housemate Idol-style, with the housemates then deciding which of the three least popular HMs is evicted.

    It's a big departure from the normal voting mechanics, and I'm not sure I like it. It was tried as a one-off last year, but even then the public were nominating who they wanted to put up for eviction, not who they wanted to save (on that occasion the public voted to nominate Daniela, Billy, Zach and Travis, with Daniela begin booted unanimously by the other HMs).

    I could speculate why the producers have decided to do things this way. It's certainly a boon for HMs like Knobbi who are popular inside the house but hated on the outside. Giving housemates the ultimate decision to boot someone is also hazardous ratings wise if the public's favourites are evicted.

    But then again, if they try enough new things maybe they'll eventually find something that will actually live up to the hype.
  • Monday, May 5, 2008

    Hoity Toity

    New game number 17 for 2008 was enjoyed at HoGS last Friday night. It goes by the name Hoity Toity, though we played the original German version Adel Verpflichtet.

    My knowledge of German being not what it was exactly what it has always been (ie. non-existent), a quick consultation of Wikipedia informs me that "adel verpflichtet" is equivalent to the French "noblesse oblige" which translates into literal English as "nobility obligates"; that is, the obligation of a noble to conduct him or herself nobly.

    So "Hoity Toity" isn't quite a literal translation from the German, but it's in the ball park. And it's catchier.

    The game is designed by well known German designer Klaus Teuber, best known for his ├╝ber-selling masterpiece Settlers of Catan and its myriad of spin-offs.

    In Hoity Toity, players race to move around the board by displaying works of art. Everyone starts with 3 works of art dealt at random, and on their turn choose either to display their art in an attempt to move a certain number of spaces, or purchase art to expand their collection and achieve bigger displays on later turns.

    It's an interesting concept and it's done quite well, though it seems to have a potential runaway leader problem which I'll get to later.

    All players start in the starting area (shown at top right on the pic above) and race anti-clockwise (those wacky Germans) around the board to the dining table.

    Each turn, all players decide secretly and simultaneously on what action they want to take. They have two options: go to the Auction House or go to the Castle.

    Players choose either their Auction card or the Castle card and play it face down on the table. All cards are then revealed.

    Players who decide to take the Auction House action this turn then move on to phase 2 where they have another two choices to make. At the Auction House, players can either bid for a piece of art to complement their current set, or try to steal someone else's winning cheque.

    Once again, this selection is made secretly, and each player's selection is revealed at the same time. The player who played the winning cheque gets to take the top piece of artwork from either of the two stacks art stacks on the board. The winning cheque is then discarded on to the board, with any unsuccessful bids returned to their owners. As all the cheques have different values there will never be a tie.

    Instead of opting to buy artwork, a player can instead choose to play a thief. A thief will steal the winning cheque, and is a good way to accumulate money for future auctions. If, however, more than one thief is played during an auction, they get in each other's way and no one gets to take the cheque.

    Buying artwork or stealing goods is all well and good but it ain't gonna get you around the board. If you want to advance at all, you'll need to play the Castle card during phase 1.

    All players who play the Castle undertake their phase 2 actions once the auction (if played) is finished.

    You have 3 options during the auction: exhibit your collection, try to steal items from other players, or try to catch a thief. As for the auction, you choose your action in secret and reveal it at the same time as the other players.

    If you played the Exhibit card you must choose at least 3 item cards in your hand and display them to the other players. Each card has a letter from A to F printed on it, and all displayed items must be continuous alphabetically. So for example, a set of A,B,B,C is OK, but a set of A,B,D,E is not.

    The object of the game is to get the largest possible set of art, as whoever displays the longest set during an exhibition moves ahead the most spaces. The oldest piece of art wins the exhibition in the case of a tie.

    The number of spaces you move ahead for winning an exhibition is determined by the current space on the board the leader is on, with each location having different values for first and second. So if you want to move ahead quickly, you're generally best to choose to exhibit if the leader's location contains a high number.

    Of course it's not that simple. As I mentioned, thieves come into play during exhibitions as well. If someone chooses to exhibit, then whoever plays a thief gets to steal one of the displayer's item cards. If there are multiple exhibits, the thief gets to take one piece from every exhibit. If multiple thieves are played, they all get to steal one item from every exhibit.

    Therefore if 3 people exhibit, and you play a thief, you get to steal 3 items to bolster your own collection. Sweet!

    In order to dissuade thieves, a player can choose to play a detective. A detective only takes effect if another player or players select a thief during an exhibition. in this scenario, the thieves still get to snatch the art, but they are then thrown in prison.

    A successful detective also gives his owner a boost by advancing that player around the board by the number of spaces equal to the player's current position. That is, if you're 5th you advance 5 spaces etc.

    There are only five cells in which thieves languish once caught, and as it's a first in - first out scenario, once a sixth thief is caught, the first one comes back out, and so on.

    The game continues like this, with players second guessing and bluffing their way around the board. If you're lucky enough to be the only player to choose a particular action (Auction House or Exhibit) then you can buy or display without worrying about thieves.

    If, however, multiple players choose the same action as you, that's when you need to out think them in a way not dissimilar from rock-paper-scissors.

    Once one player reaches the final section at the Dining Table, the game ends with everyone exhibiting their largest collection. The winner of this advances 8 spaces, and the runner-up moves along 4 spaces. Whoever is furthest around the board after this wins.

    The fun in this game comes from the joy from outmanoeuvring your opponents or being hornswoggled by them.

    Players who manage to get ahead have the advantage of being able to take a little time to increase their collection rather than worrying about catching up. In the game we played, Bernd and The Giggling One were substantially ahead, and as they neared the dining room they stopped exhibiting and either bought pieces at auction or simply stole artwork from Ian or myself as we desperately exhibited in an effort to catch up.

    Being our first game, perhaps we weren't playing in the most strategically effective way, but it struck me that having a nice lead is a very good thing.

    Don't let that dissuade you from playing Hoity Toity. It's a pretty quick game and the interaction makes it a lot of fun. It contributed to another enjoyable games evening.

    Oh, and The Giggling One will make my life hell if I don't mention she won!

    Images from BoardGameGeek

    Saturday, May 3, 2008

    Maka Bana

    Two new games were added to my New Games Quest list last night. The first game of the evening was Maka Bana.

    Maka Bana is a cutesy sort of game, all about builiding huts on an island and trying to second guess your opponents.

    Maka Bana is a tropical island with four beaches: Azzura, Bikini, Coquito and Diabolo. Notice the naming convention there? It keeps things nice and simple, which reflects the game as a whole. Having said that, there is a deeper underlying strategy.

    The object of the game is to build huts at various locations around the island. At the end of the game players are scored based on the number of huts they have on the board, with bonus points awarded if you have neighbouring huts or if you have the most huts on a beach.

    So let's have a look at the board:

    The various sites that huts can be placed are marked on the board, with each site having three characteristics: beach, terrain, and setting. No two sites share the same three characteristics.

    As mentioned earlier, there are four beaches. There are also four different terrains on the island: sand, grass, lagoon and pebble. Each of these terrains is clearly identifiable on the board and is conveniently separated from other terrains by jetties and paths.

    For example, Azzura beach has three terrains: pebbles, grass and lagoon. Coquito and Diabolo also have only three, with Bikini the only beach to contain all four terrains.

    The final identifier for a site is its setting. these are the patterns mareked on each site, and come in three types: fish, flowers and tattoo.

    Players are given cards to signify each characteristic, and each round they secretly choose which site they wish to build on, and choose the appropriate three cards. For example, if you wished to build a hut on the central site on Azzura beach, you would select the Azzura card, the grass card, and the flower card from your hand and place these face down in front of you.

    Once everyone has chosen their three cards, everyone turns over their top card to show the other players. Why is this important? Because of the tiki.

    You see, all the other players will now have an idea of where you are intending to build your hut, and have a chance to stop you from building on that turn. That's where the tiki comes in. Starting with the first player, everyone places their tiki figurine on a site. If a tiki occupies a site you want to build on later in the turn, you're out of luck.

    The idea here is to look at the card each of your opponents has turned up and place your tiki on a site that matches at least one of those characteristics. As the other players are trying to do the same, it's generally in your best interest to show them the card with the most possible free sites.

    For example, if you want to play on the Azzura/grass/flower site, and there are only 3 sites left on Azzura, 4 grass sites left on the board, and 5 unclaimed flower sites, then you're probably better off revealing the flower card. This way there are more possible places you could be building and you've got a better chance for your intended building site not to be blocked by a tiki.

    Of course, as more points are awarded for huts grouped together as well as for the most huts on each beach, as the game goes on you get more of an idea of where your opponents would prefer to build a hut. That's where the second guessing and the bluffing strategies come into play.

    Once tikis have been placed, the first player reveals his or her remaing two cards. If the chosen site is free, they place a hut on that site. If a tiki occupies the chosen site, then nothing happens (apart from a little swearing and muttering of rude things) and the next player takes their turn.

    If a site was free at the start of a turn, but another player has already built on that site before you this turn, then you miss out as well. The starting player changes each turn so you have a chance to get revenge later.

    There is one other mechanic that makes things a little more interesting than simply building huts. Each player has two Paint cards which they can play at any time during the game. Once a Paint card is played, though, it's gone forever, so you only have two opportunities to paint during the game.

    Instead of choosing to build a hut on a vacant site, you can choose to paint someone else's hut that is already on the board. To do this you simply declare a paint card when you select the three site cards. You must still reveal one of the three site cards to give your opponents an idea of where you might be choosing to paint.

    When placing your tiki, if someone has chosen to paint this round, instead of placing it on an empty site, you can place it next to an existing hut. If the tiki is protecting a hut that someone has chosen to paint, the hut remains unpainted.

    If, however, the target hut is unprotected, it is replaced by one of the painting player's huts. The replaced hut goes back to its owner and can be built or painted elsewhere (or indeed painted back to that same site) in a future round.

    With only two Paint cards, it's unwise to play them too early. They are more useful later in the game when there are few empty sites or you are trying to maximise your points. It is also useful to keep track of how many Paint cards other players have remaining so you have chance to recapture a painted hut, or keep a hut painted in your colour.

    The game ends in one of two ways. If one player has all 10 of their huts on the board at the end of a turn the game ends immediately. Alternatively, if all sites on a beach are occupied (either by a hut or a tiki) at the end of a turn, one more turn is played and the game then ends.

    Once the game is over, it's time to score. Players are awarded 1 point per isolated hut (that is, a hut of their colour that is not immediately adjacent to another hut of their colour) on the board.

    Neighbouring huts of the same colour are scored 1 point for the first hut, 2 points for the second hut, and 3 points for the third and any subsequent hut in the group. So, a group of three huts will score 6 points, while a group of four huts will score 9 points.

    Each of the four beaches is then scored. The player with the most huts on a beach scores 4 points. If two players tie for the most number of huts on a beach they each score 2 points. if three or more players tie, then no points are awarded for that beach.

    And that's it. There is a more advanced version of the game but we did not play it. in the game we had, Ian and I tied for the win on 16 points each. We each scored 10 points for our 9 huts (including 1 grouped pair each), 4 points for winning a beach, and 2 points for sharing a beach. The Giggling One finished third with 12 points. Bernd brought up the rear with 8 points after he took the lead late in the game and was targeted by the rest of us.

    Maka Bana is a fun little game and relatively short. it can be played with up to 5 players, whough we played with 4. There's not too much strategy, and the most fun comes from the interaction involved with tiki placements. Both The Giggling One and I enjoyed this game.

    Note: All images used in this post are taken from BoardGameGeek